Sewer robots could soon be crawling in your pipes

With a shortage of workers in Japan, a robotics company invented a spider-like friend to help. Yair Ben-Dor has more.

Factory Automation & Robotics / Sewer robots

A sinister-looking army of robots may soon be crawling through your water pipes.

The so-called spider robot “SPD1” is designed to sneak into houses on reconnaissance missions.

However, the multi-legged machines have only be designed to carry out maintenance surveys and spot leaks.

Equipped with 360-degree cameras, operators are able to control them with a gaming pad.

Japanese robotics firm TMSUK say they have developed the bot as a response to failing sewer infrastructure and a lack of workers.

They say the “walking pipe survey robot” was developed in consideration of the deterioration of sewer pipes since the 1970s.

The company explains: “The total length of sewer pipes in Japan is about 490,000 km, of which about 25,000 km (5% of the total length) have passed the standard service life of 50 years, and will be expected to reach the end of the next 10 years.

“In addition, there is a chronic shortage of workers in the construction industry, especially at sewerage construction sites, and it is currently difficult to expect inspections and repairs to be completed.

“Therefore, as a new attempt to meet the diverse needs that are expected to continue to increase in the future, we have developed a highly versatile multi-legged walking pipe survey robot.”

SPD1 features legs designed to flexibly conform to different inner diameters of the pipes.

The robots can investigate and work individually or in groups; with the first robot leading the way, the second robot recording the surveyed location, and the third robot doing “works” on the required location.

TMSUK say: “We are planning to announce the product model of SPD1 after conducting a demonstration experiment at the site of a sewage pipe survey.

“In addition, since it is based on general-purpose robot technology, by changing functions such as adding a workable arm, it can be applied to survey and work in narrow places where people cannot enter, other than sewage work.”

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